A common way to describe beautiful scenery in Chinese is to say it has "mountains, water." This is one of the first things you learn when you study Chinese, because these are two characters that have a blessed resemblance to what they mean: "mountain" (shan) actually looks like a mountain (山) and "water" (shui) looks at least somewhat like a pool of water, or a wavy river, or something (水).
So to say that a particular place has good 山水 is to say that it has abundant natural beauty. This weekend, I learned that Dalian, the city I'm living in, has just that
Saturday, I took a cool elevated commuter train out of the city about a half hour to meet a friend who lives in the "Development Area," which is basically a suburb of Dalian that's been overrun by Japanese corporations. But while the streets are lined with Karaoke joints and mysterious, sexy clubs with signs all in Japanese, the one thing in the Development Area that didn't seem developed was Big Black Mountain, the highest peak in the region.
So me and my friend and her two friends spent a pleasant afternoon hiking Big Black Mountain, enjoying the shady path that led through leafy green trees and the occasional Buddhist temple.
After a couple of sweaty hours we reached the top, and were treated to a 360-degree view across the land and the city that swept out toward the sea. It was beautiful. Then we found that there-- at the mountain's peak-- the bastards had installed a gigantic telecom antenna. Development Area indeed.
Today, I got up early and met some other friends from the university here for a Sunday trip to the beach. I knew from the start that Dalian was a coastal city-- hell, the reason I came here was for the seafood-- but I didn't realize that it had beaches, sand beaches, that you could go and do beach things at.
Of course, it's always a little different in China. So after tanning in the sun and swimming in the water, we all piled onto a little battery-powered Duffy boat and toted around the bay for an hour bopping over waves and pretending to be pirates. Immensely good times.